Recreational marijuana has been a long time coming in Massachusetts. Its been over two years since voters in the Bay State approved a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis. Now the first first dispensaries in Massachusetts are finally set to open this week. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the state's first two dispensaries - Cultivate and New England Treatment Access (NETA) - have invited veterans to be their first customers.
At the front of the line to get into Cultivate when they open their doors to the public on Tuesday morning will be Iraq vet and medical marijuana advocate Stephen Mandile. Mandile has been an outspoken supporter for medical marijuana since he transitioned onto cannabis after quitting the addictive and dangerous painkillers prescribed to treat the chronic pain and PTSD associated with his time in the US Army.
"I get to make history," Mandile told The Boston Globe. "It means a lot, and I never expected this would be the outcome of my advocacy—I was just trying to go about helping people. I’m pumped to break the stigma and the weird, scary aura people want to put around cannabis."
And he's not taking the historic honor lightly.
"We're doing something that generations before us never thought would happen. We have to be grateful for that and embrace our responsibility."
Meanwhile, NETA has invited Northampton Mayor and Air Force vet David Narkewicz to make the first purchase at their store. Narkewicz says he's treating the store opening just like he would any other new enterprise in the city, noting that "Northampton is often at the forefront of social change."
"I'm proud to go to new businesses that create new tax revenue for the city and be there for their opening," Narkewicz said Sunday. "I'm not going to act any differently because the new business happens to be adult-use marijuana. It’s a legal business in our Commonwealth. If we're going to destigmatize marijuana, it's even more important that I be there and treat it like every other company. I'm honored to do it."